Backbreaker Review (Xbox 360)
When you see the number 12, what do you think of? A dozen eggs? The months of a year? Well, how about my first 12 possessions in a Human vs. CPU game of Backbreaker: fumble, fumble, fumble, interception, interception, field goal, interception, interception, interception, interception, fumble and interception.
Simply put, Backbreaker has turned a sports gamer’s nightmare into a reality by failing to live up to its hype.
During the last couple of years, everyone in the football universe has been talking about whether or not Backbreaker would serve as a solid alternate to the EA franchise. The game was delayed multiple times while wars were waged on message boards all around the world, but now that the game has finally been released, it is clear that not even an extra year of development time could have fixed this title.
I say that because the gameplay in Backbreaker is its biggest downfall by far. It does not even feel as realistic as an old NFL Blitz title. Yes, the game is something new, but it cannot hide its major flaws.
One problem deals with the amount of turnovers that are committed in each game. I’m not talking about three turnovers a game. No, I’m talking about turnover numbers that can range from 10 to 20 per game. Here are just two quarterback stat lines I have witnessed:
(5-28), 7 INT
(1-16), 12 INT
That's really bad.
The game feels like it is moving at a lightning fast speed, which can very frustrating when you first start out. However, after you get the hang of the speed, you will start to understand how to cope with it much more easily. The camera angle also adds to the initial confusion. (For those who have not seen any media for the game, the camera zooms in on the player you are controlling.) Since the camera is so close to your player, it is hard to see what is going on around the field, which is both good and bad. It adds to the realism of an actual football game by giving the AI a chance to blindside you, but when you’re on defense, the camera angle makes it tough to keep up with the ball.
On offense, passing the ball is easy right up until you throw interception after interception. And if you don’t throw an interception, then you’ll get sacked and drop the ball while attempting a forward pass -- but have no fear, that forward pass will be ruled a fumble. When running the ball, expect a loss of five yards or a 50-yard touchdown.
While playing defense, the general issue is the aforementioned camera angle. I do enjoy the camera angle to an extent on defense because it really feels like a brand new experience, but again, it is hard to see what is going on during a play.
The graphics in Backbreaker are nothing special. All the stadiums and player models seem identical sans a few different traits. The players do not really stand out as individuals because they are just a bunch of athletes running around with visors. Basically, the graphics do not really hurt the game, but they do not help the game either.
Beyond the experience on the field, there is actually a reason why Backbreaker will be a huge hit one day: the customization options. If you have the desire and patience to create anything, from your high school team to a college team to even the entire NFL, then you have tapped into what Backbreaker is all about. You get to create and re-create anything you want. When you start a season, you create your own league, add in your own teams or the pre-made ones, and then you place them however you see fit. It is hard to give the customizable features just one short paragraph in this review, but this is one area of the game you just need to appreciate and explore. Make sure you call in sick to work or skip class to toy around with this element of the game.
The other mode in this game that will make Backbreaker a force to be reckoned with (assuming the gameplay gets overhauled in the future) is Tackle Alley (TA). TA is one of the most intriguing and addicting game modes I have ever played. You are faced with the challenge of reaching the end zone while using various dodge moves to avoid your opponents. There are 100 waves in this mode, and these waves begin to get very complicated once you make it to wave 50. If you beat the final wave, you unlock a hidden team, which is presumably the best team in the game. (For those of you with the Backbreaker iPhone application, TA is identical to it -- this version just has a ton of added flare.)
Beware of playing Backbreaker online because it has already turned into a big cheese fest. While the servers are very impressive and stable, the opponents really ruin the online experience. "Cheesing" in Backbreaker is very easy to do because of the game speed. After you snap the ball online, you will be sacked early and often. However, turnovers are not as rampant online because you are playing a real person rather than the unintelligent CPU-controlled teams.
Overall, Backbreaker is another game that had all the hype in the world, but now that it is out, it cannot get out of the way of its own hype train. I do think the game could be a great game in time, but the little errors and glitches really add up in this one. In addition to that, TA is one of the best mini-games I have ever played. But even with that mini-game and all of the customization options Backbreaker has to offer, the lack of quality gameplay really knocks it flat on its back. If you want sim, do not even look at this game. If you simply want to play a fun football game that is emulating an arcade experience, just boot up NFL Blitz again.
On the Field : Don’t remind me how terrible it is.
Graphics: Not good or bad, just bland.
Sound: Awesome at first, but by the third game, you will be sick of P.O.D.
Entertainment Value: It can be fun with a friend, but the frustration will take hold sooner rather than later.
Learning Curve: There is a surprisingly steep learning curve to the game. Getting used to the camera angles is a big part of that curve.
Online: Great servers, but bad opponents.
Score: 5 (Average)